Monday, 8 July 2013

Top Dollar

This is the first race I've done more than once, which felt like a double edged sword. On the one hand, it was nice to know the route and roughly what to expect, but on the other I realised I'd be disappointed if I didn't match or better my time from last year. Yes, I appear to have become a PB hunter. The weather certainly had no problem in matching its form from 2012: clear, sunny and warm with a light breeze. I packed as much water as possible in my bum-bag, and donned my new running sunglasses.

 There seemed to be loads of Carnethies milling about in the luxe cricket grounds of Dollar Academy, but with offspring threatening to hurl themselves off the pavillion balcony, I was too distracted to chat. Last minute child-wrangling did take my mind off pre-race nerves, however, and before I knew it we were herding along the road towards the woods. I'd forgotten that the start of the woodland steps is a bit of a bottle-neck, but a couple of other runners must have had this in mind and were ruthless with their elbows. I was pretty apprehensive about the ascent of Saddle Hill and White Wisp, remembering it to be a long, hard slog for the best part of a couple of miles. It didn't disappoint. Saddle Hill in particular is a bit of a killer, requiring a bit of scrambling / clutching at tussocks:

I was in no position to take photos. This is a very accurate artist's impression of my view as I grabbed handfuls of grass.
Once you're on top of White Wisp, this race is a cracker. The grassy tracks over the ridge of Tarmangie and Maddy Moss are very runnable, and the shortish ascents of Andrew Gannel and King's Seat offer a hydration opportunity with the change of pace. The views are also swoonworthy, but I was too preoccupied with keeping both my PB and the distant wee Helen-shaped fleck (who had motored past me and numerous other runners up Saddle Hill) in sight to focus properly on the scenery this year.

I'd forgotten how long the descent from King's Seat is: a quad-burning 1.5ish miles back down to the woodland. I seem to remember being overtaken by dozens of runners on this section last year, so it was gratifying (although slightly alarming) to be running mostly by myself with only the occasional glimpse of runners ahead to reassure me that I hadn't gone astray. My poor, abused big toe was being battered to a pulp as my foot slammed repeatedly into the front of my too-loosely-fastened shoe. On the plus side, I realised that my eyes weren't leaking as they usually do on the downhills, thanks I think to my extremely comfy, cheap, light Decathlon shades protecting me from the wind: evidence against Digby's hypothesis that the tears get shoogled out of the eyes by the bumpy running motion.

I galumphed and puffed my way past Chris Henty, who always seems so unruffled as he lopes along, giving the impression he's out for a civilised afternoon stroll. We exchanged mutual jelly-legged woes, and I headed for the shade of the woods. The cool, damp air was a perfect tonic and the narrow, rooty, stepped path gave that exciting illusion that I was moving at a dangerously fast speed. I kept getting a glimpse of Helen zipping along below me on the zigzag trail, and realised that if I could keep up with her I'd definitely beat my 2012 time. My feet, legs and lungs were all hurting by this point, and it would have been so easy to slack off on the pace if I hadn't had a red vest to chase! Out of the woods and with less than half a mile to go, I knew I was heading for a PB. I gritted my teeth and flogged along that last short stretch of road, feeling unsporting as I passed Helen. It feels a bit cheaty to pip someone on the flat when the hill-race "proper" is done.

The turning in to Dollar Academy was well marshalled this year, and I pretty much threw myself at the finishing line, before crawling onto the pavillion steps for a nauseated / stars-in-front-of-the-eyes lie down.Warm-down stretches were conducted by leaning over the cake table for huge slices of amazing Victoria cream sponge and cups of tea. Helen and I compared battle wounds on the sunny balcony: my minced toe, and her gouged and bloodied knee (an injury sustained at the beginning of the race, which would have sent me lesser mortals whimpering home).

So, a glorious day! The only fly in the ointment was a catastrophic failure on the shower-front. I'd hoped to freshen up before heading off for a night's camping, but the women's showers were all broken. We had to make do with splashing ineffectually in the sink while eye-rolling and tsking at the sound of grufty menfolk scrubbing in the showers next door. Oh, and the next day some bloke stole the limelight from my FOUR MINUTE PB and best ever percentage by winning Wimbledon.



  1. Excellent report in particular the artist's impressions – they definitely outshine mere photography. (there was no need to identify the victoria cream sponge as the painting of it was so lifelike!) Also a 4 minute pb kicks any tennis match into touch if that's not too many sports in one metaphor. Love Digby's idea tears are shoogled free. I always thought it was emotional release, but it could be the wind. And yes you are allowed to beat other runners right up until the finish line, (after which hostilities should cease.) Well done, great race and write up.

    1. Thank you PB! :-D How *do* you take photos on your shorter speedy races? Do you have a normal camera, or a sporty one?

  2. I see the Burn of Sorrow runs down the valley!


    1. Is that some sort of doon-hilling tears metaphor?